The massive heritage-listed White Bay power station beside Sydney Harbour, 2km from the CBD, is likely to become Google’s new Australian headquarters as part of a $20 billion redevelopment of waterfront land.
The building – currently a rusted shell including two disused chimney stacks – is a highly visible and recognisable landmark in Sydney, with broad water views, located off one side of the Anzac Bridge which connects the CBD with the main traffic arteries to the west of the city. The interior of the building still features some of its original plant fittings.
A spokesman for Google confirmed to Business Insider today that the global tech giant was in direct negotiations with UrbanGrowth NSW, but would not elaborate further.
Google’s current Australian headquarters are at nearby Darling Island. Google maintains a sales force in Sydney as well as an engineering division, which was most famously responsible for the creation of Google Maps.
Reports that Google was looking at the site first emerged eight months ago, after state premier Mike Baird flagged turning the area, which includes 10 hectares industrial waterfront land, into a tech hub.
“The White Bay Power Station will be transformed into a global centre for hi-tech jobs and innovation. It will be a place where global giants of technology and innovation cluster and connect with start-up entrepreneurs, business incubators and accelerators,” Baird said in outlining his vision last year.
After calling for submissions from the private sector last year, the NSW government and planning minister Rob Stokes rejected all 13 proposals they received in June, instead appointing the government’s property developer UrbanGrowth NSW as master developer of the precinct, planning to break up Glebe Island site – currently home for the temporary Sydney exhibition centre – into smaller, staged developments.
Google, which currently has its Australian headquarters at nearby Darling Island, was believed to be part of a consortium with Lendlease that put forward one of the rejected proposals.
UrbanGrowth NSW chairman John Brogden said at the time that none of the proposals complied with the government’s wishes.
“The NSW Government’s vision is for the old White Bay Power Station to become Australia’s leading, world class tech hub. In October 2015, we sought proposals from the private sector to transform the iconic site on Sydney Harbour,” he said.
“The private sector proposals relied too heavily on residential development to fund decontamination of the Power Station, and doing so would have changed the nature of the site.
“As the custodians of this heritage-listed building on public land, we owe it to Sydneysiders, the people of New South Wales and future generations to get this right.”
Perhaps conscious that development density at the Barangaroo site, overseen by developer Lendlease, more than doubled from the original masterplan, planning minister Rob Stokes said in June that “this will not be an exercise where government hands over large areas of public land and gives away control, without ensuring good outcomes for the community”.
But instead of getting developers to pay for the rehabilitation and restoration of the site, taxpayers will now foot some of the bill, with UrbanGrowth NSW taking on responsibility for some of the costs.
The power station repurposing is part of a bigger vision to redevelop a 5.5km, 80 hectare stretch of waterfront land dubbed the Bays Precinct, running from the Sydney Fish Market around to the the city’s second cruise liner terminal in Rozelle. At 80 hectares, the project is four times the size of Barangaroo.
The precinct, will include housing recreation, retail, tourism, commercial and maritime facilities, as well as the long-awaited redevelopment of the Sydney Fish Market.
The redevelopment is expected to take 30 years and the derelict White Bay power station has been identified as the top priority for UrbanGrowth NSW, with the development body scheduled to begin initial restoration and rehabilitation work on the contaminated site next year. The 38,000 m2 coal-fired power station, built during the start of World War 1, closed in 1983.
UrbanGrowth NSW has said it wants a deal signed with suitable occupants by the end of 2016.
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